If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday 21 March 2010

And thinking ...

It may be time for a reconfiguration of the bike fleet. This post is a kind of thinking-aloud exercise, so bear with me.

Currently, I have:
  • Yamaha XT trailbike
  • Honda ST1300 Pan European.
The XT has had a lot of work put into it (by me) and is now in a good state of repair, apparently reliable (touch wood) and a whole heap of fun to ride. It has a topcase and its utility ranges from simple rides out for fun to minor shopping expeditions, and longer journeys up to 100 miles or so. If I get another job (touch wood again) it will be my daily hack, and it's economical to run. I don't think I will ever sell it - it's friendly and easy to own, a real jump-on-it-and-ride machine, and if I ever find I have something better for the role of daily driver, I will take it off the road and treat it to a full restoration.

The Pan is seemingly 100% reliable and awesomely capable of long, fast journeys, where it is comfortable and protects well from wind and weather. As well as being at home on motorways, I have to admit it is a total hoot on A-roads too, where 125bhp makes other traffic a minor inconvenience. It's also the best bike I have ever had for pillion comfort. The problem is that what it is good at are the things I don't really need. Anna's back problem means that it is unlikely we will ever fulfil the dream of a continental tour, or even enjoy a day trip round Pembrokeshire. And my experience of riding to Denmark and back last year has taught me that if I ever do that kind of thing again, it will be slower and more thoughtful, taking time to enjoy the scenery.

Riding through Germany at 120 was a blast (in both senses), but I later realised that I had only spoken to two Germans in the entire trip, and both of them were MacDonalds' employees. I have a burning desire to do a lot more travelling before I get too old, and doing it at warp speed on the Euromotorway network is not the way I want to do it.

I think the Pan has got to go. I wouldn't have any problem with selling it on. As I have written here before, I admire and respect its capabilities, but I haven't formed any kind of emotional attachment to it. It's a machine which is very good at what it does, but then so is my dishwasher. It's also mechanically 100%, which is ironically a bonus, as I wouldn't sell anything that I had doubts about to a private seller. But there is one huge downside to moving it on: Anna. I sold the Ducati to get the Pan (and boy, was that Ducati a nice bike!), with the sole purpose of a two-up trip to France in 2009. That didn't happen, but while I have the Pan the theoretical possibility remains. Selling it would be tantamount to saying the holiday plans are off, and from here on I will be riding on my own. I'm not sure she is ready for that.

Replacements for the Pan? Well, it would have to be different enough from the XT to avoid duplicating capabilities. Good for longish distances, comfy, reliable, able to maintain a cruising speed of 70-80 mph or so. Not too heavy or unwieldy. Room for some luggage and a place to strap on a tent and sleeping bag. Owner-maintainable, without massive body plastics or over-complex technology. Must have character and a bit of 'soul'.

I'm working on a shortlist. And, after a trip to the local bike shop yesterday, there may be some surprising candidates on it.

More when I've had more time to think. Any observations welcome in the comments.

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